The UK’s fourth-largest supermarket group Safeway has posted a 4% rise in first-half underlying profits.

Pre-tax profits before exceptional items were reported as £188m (US$296m) for the 28 weeks to 12 October, compared to £181m for the same period last year. Analysts’ forecasts were between £182m and £189m, reported Reuters.

Overall first-half sales were up 2.2% to £5.1bn.

The company said it wants to add to the benefits of increased customer numbers by encouraging people to spend more at its stores.